Deborah Gaines and Jerry Ryan
How old when first met: Both 52
How they met: “We had seen each other around town,” Deborah says, “but formally met when he offered to fix a broken link on my website.”
First date: “Unofficially, wine on my porch after he fixed the website. Officially, two nights later at a restaurant and microbrewery.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “A couple of months after we met, my son forgot his clarinet and called home to get someone to drop it off. Jerry heard the message, found the instrument and drove it to the middle school on his way to the office.”
The best thing about love later in life: “It’s a gift, pure and simple. No timetable, no agenda — just two people enjoying each other.”
The secret to lasting love: “Valuing what we have instead of wanting things to be perfect. I used to think if things went wrong, or if we didn’t always feel loving, that something was wrong with the relationship. Now I just let it all happen. Sometimes we drive each other crazy, but that doesn’t mean we love each other any less.”
Ron Hutchins and Richard Cameron
How they met: “We met at our local gay bar — Alibi,” says Richard, 53. “I was out with a friend. Ron walked by, and lightning hit me. I said to my friend, ‘That is the man I’m going to marry!’ I realize we couldn’t get married back then legally. But it was love at first sight for me."
First date: “Our first date didn’t go so well. Ron (who is 55) said he would come to my condo the following night after rehearsal (he’s a theater choreographer), but the lighting director’s flight was delayed, and Ron’s schedule became so late that I decided he’d bailed on me. I was already on one of the dating websites to find another date. I met a guy online who was knocking at my door. Then Ron showed up. Now there were three of us looking at each other, and Ron said, ‘I’m going to be a gentleman and just say goodnight.’ This could have been a deal breaker, but I got lucky. I called Ron the next morning, and he said, ‘You hurt my feelings.’ He told me the story of the late flight, and I felt like an ass. I made up for it, inviting him over for another meal.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “I knew we were destined to be together when Ron said ‘I’m going to be a gentleman and just say goodnight’ and ‘You hurt my feelings’.”
The best thing about love later in life: “It’s that you know what your breaking points are. You know if you can get through a difficult disagreement. You have a disagreement and know enough not to throw everything away that you have both wished for your entire lives. Sometimes one just has to give in and move on to the positive moments.”
The secret to lasting love: “It’s honesty. You are human. You are both going to mess up, but if you are honest you can get through anything! Love and true friendship is the key. Make date nights or ‘we time.’ Light candles, play favorite music, watch a movie in bed and share a special dinner with your favorite comfort foods. Enjoy the moment. Relationships over 50 are easier and more enjoyable. So when that AARP card comes in the mail, just know it’s the best time of your life!”
Robby and Treva Scharf
How old when first met: Robby was 56, and Treva was 50.
How they met: “We initially met on Facebook. Robby private messaged me in November 2012 about a mutual high school friend who was having problems and suggested we do an intervention,” Treva says. “We weren’t able to help our friend, but I remember thinking, What a nice guy to care so much. I was single at the time, going through breakup hell and depressed about turning 50, so I had my own problems to deal with. It was a real low point in my life.”
First date: “Since it appeared I was never getting married, I decided to throw myself a big 50th birthday bash in February 2013 to celebrate my singleness instead of having a pity party. I invited half of Facebook, including Robby. We met in person that night and went on a real date the following week.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “I knew he was the one because he drove the relationship without his foot on the brakes. He was direct, fearless and didn’t play games. He knew what he wanted, and he proceeded with confidence, even though he was a marriage virgin, too. I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride — which was a first because I was always in control when it comes to love. We got engaged six months after we met and got married nine months after that.”
The best thing about love later in life: “The best thing is that there are no rules, no expectations and no conditions. You are free to be who you are. Being able to accept each other’s flaws as beautiful imperfections makes love at this age so much stronger and compelling.”
The secret to lasting love: “Ha! Don’t ask me. I’m still learning. This is the longest relationship I’ve ever had, and it’s not even been three years, so I’m a total rookie. But I think the secret is communication — being able to express your feelings, articulate your needs and find common ground.”
Hope Hartman and Bob Wechsler
How old when first met: Hope was 57, and Bob was 55.
How they met: “We met online at JDate, which we joined at the same time in July 2005. What attracted me to him most was his sense of humor,” Hope says. “Under the category, ‘What did you learn from previous relationships?’ — unlike others who cited ‘communication, intimacy’ — Bob said, ‘Put the toilet seat down, clean the cat box daily, and separate the whites from the darks.’ My first message to him was ‘I’ve never separated the whites from the darks and probably never will.’”
First date: “After writing to each other daily for about a month, we decided to meet for lunch between my home in New Jersey and his home in Pennsylvania. I said that if we hit it off at lunch, he could come back to my place and we’d go out on the lake in my motorboat. Our first date lasted 11 hours, and the only reason I made him leave then was because I was hosting a party the following day. We’ve been together ever since.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “It just felt right from the beginning. I had dated a lot before and knew what was important to me. We had an across-state relationship for seven years, then retired and moved to North Carolina together four years ago.”
The best thing about finding love later in life: “Companionship, affection and intimacy. We love traveling, hiking, birding, being involved in social action activities, concerts, movies, plays, ballgames, museums, and being with family and friends. Affection and physical intimacy — hugging, cuddling and making love are vital.”
The secret to lasting love: “Loving and accepting each other for who you are. Giving each other physical and psychological space. Trying not to be judgmental. Learning new things about and with each other. Appreciating that every day is a potential gift of new experiences with your mate.”
Ken Solin and Nancy Rothschild
How old when first met: Ken was 67, and Nancy was 63.
How they met: Online at OkCupid.
First date: Coffee.
How you knew she was “the one”: “I just couldn’t wait to see her again every time we parted,” Ken says. “We had so much in common it felt like we already knew each other.”
The best thing about finding love later in life: “We both knew that along with passion and mutual respect, a successful relationship also had to be a best friendship. And we understood that emotional dialogue is the only way to solve issues.”
The secret to lasting love: “Our secret for staying in love is what we call ‘keeping it clean,’ which means never allowing discord to fester, but rather resolving issues quickly through emotional dialogue.”
Michael Liberatore and Lindsay Farmer
How old when first met: Michael was 55, and Lindsay was 50.
How they met: “I was ending a 19-year relationship with a wonderful man with whom I had fallen out of love; it just wasn’t working anymore, and I was bound and determined to spend the second half of my life happy,” Michael says. “I was having a particularly depressing day dealing with the breakup when I decided, though I’m not much of a drinker, to go to a neighborhood bar for a quick, nerve-settling beer. I am not well acquainted with the bar scene and arrived 15 minutes before it opened. I felt like a loser, waiting on the sidewalk for the doors to open at 3 in the afternoon. When it opened, I walked in and was the only patron in the place. I was about to leave when some other poor time-challenged soul walked in. And a very handsome one at that! We laughed that we were obviously the most desperate men in town and started talking. He was divorcing from his partner of 14 years, and a real estate agent was showing his house that afternoon, so he had chosen to escape to the same bar I did.”
First date: “It’s hard to say. We wrongly assessed that first day at the bar that we were not each other’s type, so we became friends — each other’s wingman — and we went out several times as buddies. I actually tried to fix Lindsay up with a friend of mine. But after a few months there was no denying the mutual attraction. I guess our first date was a gay bowling night where we ran into one of his exes!”
How you knew he was “the one”: “I actually think I knew right away. Maybe the day we met at the bar. But I convinced myself he just liked me as a friend. I felt it in my gut, but I let my head convince me otherwise. I think we have to trust our gut feelings. Anyway, it was his smile, his humor, his quiet strength and his honesty. And the fact he was sexy didn’t hurt!”
The best thing about finding love later in life: “Being 55 and knowing myself and what I will tolerate and what I will not has made this so much easier. In many ways, it can be challenging because I don’t put up with the stuff I did when I was young and didn’t realize I had to ask for what I wanted instead of just waiting and hoping for it. I understand myself — my good points and my flaws — and I understand my partner better than I could have when I was 30.”
The secret to lasting love: “Communication. Honesty. Knowing what you want and need. Compromise. Empathy. Letting go of resentments. Being inventive in all ways — constantly trying new things and not caring what anybody else except your partner thinks.”
Mike Sheff and Linda Friedman
How old when first met: Linda was 54, and Mike was 61.
How they met: “We went on a Jewish singles cruise to the Baltics, and Mike was standing behind me in line to get onto the ship,” Linda says. “I was from Houston, and I learned he was from Dallas, where I’d previously lived, and we found some people we knew in common. We had 12 days to get to know each other on the ship.”
First date: “Mike took me to one of the fine dining restaurants on the ship about seven days into the cruise. He came to visit me in Houston about a month later for my birthday weekend.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “He had all the qualities I was looking for — sweet, sensitive, strong Jewish identity, bright and successful. And we had so much in common.”
The best thing about finding love later in life: “I love having someone to share all the ups and downs, particularly later in life, especially when dealing with issues such as aging parents. We each feel that we found our soul mate and love of our life, which was pretty remarkable at our ages.”
The secret to lasting love: “We love being together, no matter what we’re doing, and enjoy so many of the same things.”
Bill and Christine Gregory
How they met: First met in kindergarten in 1962 when they were both 5. They went all the way through high school together as friends. Bill looked up Christine in 2010, and they reconnected.
First date: “We went to New York City to the South Street Seaport, and found a bench and talked for 4½ hours, then ate dinner and went up to Times Square, sat on the steps another hour or so, and then went to the top of the Marriott Marquis to celebrate,” Christine says. “Bill bought me my first martini, and we toasted what we knew would be our future. All in all, it was a 12-hour first date! We had a lot of years and a lot of questions to discuss.”
How you knew he was “the one”: “I guess I knew since I was around 16. However, a missed opportunity in high school became the catalyst for our orbits always being out of sync. Once the orbits finally collided in 2010, it was apparent that we were beyond compatible and that we probably always loved each other.”
The best thing about finding love later in life: “Well, we lament that we lost so many decades and knew that we should have been together all along. However, being that we both went through some very rough times before we got together, we certainly appreciate each other even more than we might have, and we value each other for who we are. We are best friends first and foremost, and being together is totally effortless. Being older and settled means we have more time for us, and we spend as much time together as possible.”
The secret to lasting love: “We are each other’s best friend, and we both respect each other immensely for who we are as individuals. We talk to each other all the time and share many laughs. It helps that we are so much alike in almost everything (sometimes almost eerily so), and we just enjoy being around each other.”